Members of the Council,
Thank you for allowing me to update you on the human rights Mapping report in the Central African Republic. The report, which was mandated by this Council in Resolution 2301 of July 2016, is nearly 400 pages long, covers major violations and crimes committed in the country from 2003 to 2015. It was launched jointly by the Central African authorities and the UN in Bangui on 30 May; I attended the launch, together with MINUSCA.
The objective of the report is to support the CAR authorities and the international community fight impunity for the years of massive abuses in the Central African Republic, and to help prevent the resurgence of conflict. Our aim is also to advance the implementation of MINUSCA's core tasks, namely (1) the development of transitional justice mechanisms in line with the 2015 Bangui Forum principles, (2) support the Special Criminal Court, and (3) help develop vetting mechanisms for defence and security forces.
By documenting incidents throughout 13 years of multiple conflicts in country, this report constitutes the start of a process of collecting evidence of the violations committed. It details 620 incidents, including horrific accounts of entire villages being burnt to the ground; multiple gang rapes of women and girls; extra-judicial killings and deaths following severe torture or ill-treatment in detention centres; serious violence against civilians on the basis of religion, ethnicity or as reprisal for perceived support for other armed groups; the recruitment of thousands of children by armed groups; and attacks on both humanitarian actors and peacekeepers. The vast majority of incidents were attributed to the Séléka/ex-Séléka and the anti-Balaka, and the Central African defence and security forces.
Some of these abuses appear to be resuming today unfortunately. This is a very alarming development. It is therefore a timely moment to send an unequivocal message to the perpetrators of violations – as we did through the mapping report – that their actions are being watched and carefully documented, and that they will be held accountable. During my visit, I found complete unanimity among the many Central Africans I spoke to regarding their utter rejection of any amnesty for perpetrators of most serious crimes, which is in line with the principles of the Bangui Forum. Building on the momentum of the report, we hope that some of the perpetrators of the most serious violations should be arrested in the near future. This would demonstrate the resolve to fight impunity, and is what the Central Africans are vocally demanding of us all, particularly in relation to the "gros poisson" – the big fish as they are called, the ones who ordered and carried out the most unspeakable atrocities.
The Mapping report provides a set of recommendations to inform the prosecutorial strategy of the Special Criminal Court, a central mechanism that will help reverse the impunity trend in Central African Republic. I had an encouraging meeting with the Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Muntazini, who arrived recently in the country.
The legacy of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic is so vast that judicial mechanisms will obviously not be the only avenue to administer justice. So the Mapping report also provides guidance for the development of a comprehensive approach to transitional justice which will help identify the appropriate mechanisms for truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. All of this, we believe, will support reconciliation efforts, given that continued impunity is one of the primary root causes of the ongoing violence.
Finally, the Mapping also highlights essential pre-conditions that must be met before transitional justice mechanisms can be functional: measures to protect victims and witnesses, and conditions to ensure that all individuals can participate in the process. Human rights defenders, and leaders of women's groups and religious communities who I met in Bangui and Bambari have been courageously documenting human rights violations with few guarantees for their security – their courage should be matched with support from the UN and other international partners.
Beyond transitional justice mechanisms, institution-building – especially the establishment of the new National Human Rights Commission and the reform of security and defence forces to allow them to carry out their protection responsibilities – are the key priorities. We are encouraged by the support of partners, including the African Union and the European Union.
As my visit to the severely overcrowded Ngaragba prison in Bangui made clear, rule of law infrastructure requires increased capacity, and prisons must be constructed, and run in a more humane manner, including with adequate food, which is not the case at present. I raised this matter with the Prime Minister. While police, justice and corrections officials have begun to deploy in several parts of the country, they continue to lack many of the resources to carry out their functions. I believe we should step up efforts to build the capacity of police, justice and corrections authorities, especially in those areas most affected by the conflict. Re-establishing such services is crucial to avoid fuelling further resentment.
In order to build on the positive momentum that the launch of the Mapping report has successfully created, I really hope this Council can support the Central Africans and MINUSCA's incredible efforts in such truly difficult circumstances by providing the means to implement its mandate to protect civilians, to fight impunity and to support the institution-building without which we simply cannot succeed in our common goals.